Another Dan Rundle hatrick helps Stour in this emphatic win against a strong Otley side
By Richard Stanley
This was a complete performance from a side still ravaged by injury but now with two young Stourton Park debutantes and a full strength management team the hosts hit winning ways again!
Normal service resumed as Stourbridge return to winning ways by an emphatic 9 Try demolition of 6th place Otley who were victors back on 1st December 2018 when they outscored us by 36-12. This was a complete performance from a side still ravaged by injury but, thankfully with two young Stourton Park debutantes and a full strength management team. With injuries still hampering selection, we witnessed debuts from young Alex Maxwell in the front row and Noah Heward at Full Back. Jack Lea and Chad Thorne are out for the rest of the season whilst Hal Riley is carrying a hamstring injury sustained in training.
The visitors have had a mixed season but have beaten (much favoured at the times) Huddersfield, Hinckley (twice) and Sedgley Park. The other notable scalp was 2nd place Chester when they amassed a 6-0 tally!
Apart from a chill breeze it was near perfect conditions for a great game of running rugby with blue skies and a large crowd. This was also the 200th appearance for Stourton Park favourite Nigel Mukarati and his entrance onto the field was met with cheers and rapturous applause. The hosts started well after returning Otley’s starting kick off which eventually led to a penalty on 5 minutes giving Chris Scott a relatively simple 3 points.
The hosts then maintained the pressure over various phases and a penalty lineout saw Dan Rundle with the ball. He sliced and skipped his way around the defence creating space to the right where he found Mark Harrison in support for the first Try of the game. This seemed to galvanize the visitors who fought back into the opposition ‘22’. While George Morgan was cuddling the Otley No8 space opened up to the right and the Stour defence was breached. However, the final inside pass was knocked on with only the whitewash to beat! Minutes later, Stour were penalized for a high tackle, in front of the posts but some distance out. Rowntree missed the target but had a second chance on 31 minutes, which he did not miss.
The penalty was the visitors’ only first half score but was followed, immediately from the kick by a rampant George Morgan. His incisive break created havoc with the defence and when finally halted he offloaded to the ever present Mark Harrison. His progress was then halted but George Morgan was back in the line and took a neat inside pass scoring in the process. Chris Scott added the extras to make it 15-3.
The crowd waited a full minute after the restart for another score. Straight from the kick off, Dan Rundle broke out and chipped ahead down the left wing. The ball bounced agonizingly high and landed in the grasp of an Otley defender. His kick into space actually landed in the hands of a surprised Chris Roddy. Rather than score, himself, from 40 metres out, he passed to Noah Heward who had the vision to chip ahead. Still with men to beat he chipped ahead out paced the defence and gathered an awkwardly bouncing ball, diving over in the corner for a debut Try! The score was now 20-3 with 35 minutes gone and the crowd seemed to settle for a comfortable half time lead.
Enter Chris Roddy again who ripped the ball away from an Otley attacker. Joe Heatley gathered and his mid field break and kick ahead gained territory for Stour. In an ‘end to end’ passage of play Otley returned the ball, with interest. However, they had not bargained for George Morgan’s tenacity and his defiant break out and determination regained the impetus. The ball was sent out left to …guess who…Dun Rundle who touched down in the corner for Stourbridge’s Bonus Point Try and a 25-3 half time lead!
After the restart both sides had their own chances but Otley were starting to dominate territory and possession. However, after over 20 phases of play they were unable to breach the home defence and a seemingly risk free pass was anticipated by Mark Harrison. He flipped the ball up and juggled for a moment before he stepped on the gas and broke free. Joe Heatley was in support and made the 60-metre sprint, untouched save for the breath of (the excellent) referee David Charlton who was in hot pursuit! Chris Scott added the conversion just 12 minutes into the second half.
Joe Heatley then got his ‘brace’ 8 minutes later after the game’s second unusual passage of play. Otley’s clearance kick somehow evaded the fingers, hands, arms and body of Mark George. It bounced into touch around the half way line. He gathered the ball, flinging it to Nick Cairns out stretched arms and Nick then made a trademark break towards the visitors’ ‘22’. “Cairnsy” then offloaded to Heatley and his well-taken Try was converted by Sam Wilson to make the score 39-3. From the restart, Otley chose to run the ball out but the attacker had not reckoned on meeting a bone crunching tackle dished out by Stef Thorp. The spilt ball was pounced upon by Luke Veebel who took Route A through the middle and sprinted 35 metres to score. Joe Heatley took the conversion to make it 46-3.
Possibly ‘too little, too late’ the next 10 minutes belonged to Otley who scored two converted Tries through the troublesome Adam Malthouse and Winger Josh Hall, both converted by Otley Scrum Half Joe Rowntree. Both scores were made after some good attacking play that resulted in quickly taken ‘tap’ penalties. The visitors were unable to continue this momentum and failed to secure any bonus points.
With the game now secured the run of play seemed to change back in favour of Stourbridge. On 76 minutes, Luke Veebel broke free from half way and passed to left field where Dan Rundle was waiting on the wing. His pace took him out of reach where he scored his 20th touch down of the season and Rod Petty converted. Rundle’s 21st came with the last play of the game but this time he was fed by Mark Harrison who had ventured away from his own wing in his never ending hunger for some action. For the second time in 2 minutes Rod Petty slotted a conversion and the final whistle blew with a rare 60 points showing on the scoreboard. This puts Dan Rundle into the top 5 scorers in the entire National Leagues structure!
Next week the team travel to Preston Grasshoppers but with an ever-continuing reduction in numbers. Hal Riley may not be fit and we lose Chris Roddy whose contract prohibits him from playing against his old club. Sam Montieri only managed 5 minutes of play through a recurrence of the injury that has kept him away for several weeks and young Alex Maxwell may be required to play for his Scotland age group!
With four fixtures remaining Stourbridge have secured league safety (barring any NCA penalties) but only one of these games is at home (Macclesfield on 13th April).